With an early kick-off (and early rise for those of us just having the clocks going forwards in the UK), many of us will be setting off for Villa Park in search of a good performance and a win. Actually, scrap that – I don’t care about the performance if we can get three points.
Aston Villa will be chasing what seems like the impossible three game winning streak, whilst Liverpool’s chances will be largely governed by which team turns up to play in B6 with the Reds having somewhat erratic form this season.
Few will doubt that it is key player Luis Suarez who will need to be nullified if Villa are to take anything from the game given the prolific rate that the Uruguayan is banging them in. Many football fans may not like Suarez’s temperament or personality, but few can doubt that the red half of Liverpool may have a struggle to keep hold of him come the end of the year.
Getting back to Villa, the team talk may well be what is has been in recent weeks – simply to give it all they’ve got. After all, with only eight games remaining the end is in sight. With a few wins (OK probably three or four), Villa will be out of danger.
As many of you will be aware, former manager Martin O’Neill was relieved of his duties as Sunderland manager last night with the Mackems falling ever closer to the relegation zone. In fact, if Villa can manage to pull off a win tomorrow, the club from the North East will replace them in the drop zone.
I know there is still some (perhaps justified) bad feeling towards the man who walked out on Villa a few short years ago, but the sadder public view may be how far O’Neill has fallen since his time at Villa – whilst guiding us to sixth place he was linked with the England job, presumably because many thought his path was on an upward trajectory in line with his own mentor’s past Brian Clough.
Instead, O’Neill leaves Sunderland having managed three Premier League clubs, one of which was relegated shortly after his departure, another (us) who are still in the mix for relegation, and a third which has plummeted towards the bottom in recent times.
More Chances Left, But Don’t Take This One As A Certainty
Whilst few will argue that there are better chances to get three points from some of the last few games of the season, Villa would be foolish to be relying on points from supposedly lesser teams. Again, much will hinge on exactly which Liverpool team turns up, and I’m sure Villa fans will be hopeful it is the stuttering one that is equally are profligate as Villa have been in earlier times.
What will happen? We’ll find out by 3:15pm.
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– Aston Villa once again came from behind to record a vital 3-2 win over fellow strugglers QPR. Goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke saw yet more slim hope granted to Paul Lambert and his side as they battle to avoid the drop.
– Christian Benteke will be absolutely vital to Aston Villa’s hopes of staying up come the end of the season. The Belgian striker has had by far the most attempts on goal in the Villa squad (88) and has, on average, been taking just 39.3 minutes to have a shot on target. Benteke is an industry-best 9/4 with 888sport.com to score at any time.
– Similarly important will be the defensive efforts and guile of Matthew Lowton. He’s compiled an impressive 74.2% tackle success rate from 97 challenges, by far the highest in the Villa squad.
– Scottish midfielder Barry Bannan will be doing his utmost to get himself on the ball this weekend and influence the game as he has been doing so far this season. The diminutive technician has on average completed a pass in the opponent’s half once every 4.4 minutes he’s been on the field of play this season.
– Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish were dealt a damning blow as they fell to a 3-1 defeat away to Southampton.
– Phillippe Coutinho is showing clear signs of settling into life in the Premier League. The gifted Brazilian has complemented some of his sublime passing with 7 on target efforts on goal and 2 assists.
– Despite having his playing time limited in recent weeks, fellow starlet Raheem Sterling has still managed to accumulate some impressive statistics this season. Not only does he sit second for dribbles within the Liverpool squad (34), he remains one of the best crossers in the squad with 37.
– Although not a youngster, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard continues to exert enormous amounts of influence. He’s racked up a mammoth 889 passes in the opponent’s half this season, along with 83 crosses and 13 assists. Liverpool will need his technique and experience whilst battling against what will be a determined Villa this weekend.